Sunday, 18 February 2018

How The Cloverfield Paradox Explains the Cloververse

The ‘Cloverfield’ film series is one of the most fascinating and unique ‘shared universes’ in modern cinema, if you can even call it that. Branded as an ‘anthology series’ (a series of films, episodes or issues which, although are published/released chronologically, don’t follow a traditional linear narrative), by production house Bad Robot, Cloverfield aims to tell exciting and original stories of everyday people when faced with otherworldly monsters, as seen in the original 2008 Cloverfield film, a found-footage horror featuring a Kaiju-esque monster attacking New York City, it’s spiritual sequel, 2016’s ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’, a psychological claustrophobic thriller dealing with themes of abuse and fear, and most recently, Netflix’s ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, a space horror film exploring the notion of parallel universes and quantum mechanics.

The series has always had an interesting dynamic when it comes to linking these films together. Despite Cloverfield’s branding as an anthology series, many die-hard fans of the series still choose to believe that these films are somehow connected, using the small references and easter eggs to Tagruato, Slusho and other tidbits to attempt to construct a linear timeline to explain the continuity of both ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’. As someone who fondly remembers the groundbreaking viral marketing campaign for ‘Cloverfield’, and found ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ to be one of my favourite films of 2016, you could understand my excitement when, during the Super Bowl halftime, the first trailer dropped online for the next instalment in the series, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, announcing its immediate release on Netflix. While the film itself isn’t as good as the two prior films, there is still plenty of note to draw from the film, specifically, in the connective tissue it manifests between the existing films within the series, and attempts to offer a clear answer to those longing for such.

A demonstration of the Many Worlds Interpretation
The plot and story of the ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ directly relates to a theory in quantum physics known as the Many-worlds interpretation, which details the idea that there is an unlimited amount of worlds parallel in space and time to our own, almost identical and indistinguishable from ours, just with ever-so-slight variables. In principle, this theory sets out that for every single possible action made, there exists a-near identical Earth to ours, where said decision was made differently, and the world, as a result, changes.

An example of the 'Schrodinger's Cat' paradox
This idea was first discussed by American physicist Hugh Everett, who in 1957, published his essay ‘Relative State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics’, wherein he devised the theory to explain the collapse of wave functions. The idea proposed in this theory states that quantum particles move in a “superposition”, meaning that before we can recognise where it is, it has already been in every possible position, and we are merely viewing one result. Putting this theory into context, the thought experiment ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ (wherein a cat can exist as both alive or dead until we observe its state), can be explained through the many worlds interpretation as both possibilities existing simultaneously, and for whatever outcome we see (i.e. the cat is alive and well), there exists a version of our reality where the cat doesn’t.

And by understanding this theory, we can actually examine ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ and begin to understand what the film means, when attempting to grasp its deep canonical roots. The particle accelerator experiment they undertake aboard the Shepard is inspired by the real life Higgs-Boson particle (known as the ‘God Particle’, also the film’s working title), a subatomic particle which helps give mass to all elementary particles that have mass, such as electrons and protons.

A diagram explaining the Higgs-Boson particle
Scientists believe that the existence of the God Particle would validate much of how scientists believe the universe was formed; the physical proof of an invisible, universe-wide field that gave mass to all matter right after the Big Bang, forcing particles to coalesce into stars, planets, and everything else. If this is the case, then it’s more than possible that the very same experiment they undertaker in ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ also acts as a ‘Big Bang’, creating the various different universes we see in each feature film.

For instance, in the film, the character of Mark Stambler (the person who comes up with the ‘Cloverfield Paradox’) directly explains this, stating how the experiment could create a rip in the space time continuum, and affect the reality of not only our Earth, but an infinite number of different Earths. This offers an explanation for each of the Cloverfield films, with each film occuring on its own unique earth, affected by the events on the Shepard, and now under attack from the monsters and demons of which Stambler warned us of. With the fabric of space and time now being ripped, the impact of this could trickle down across the entire time-stream. Therefore, although the events of Paradox occur some 20 years after the original Cloverfield film, it’s these same events which bring the monster to Earth, and the same for the aliens in 10 Cloverfield Lane, and even the rumoured next instalment of the Cloververse, a World War II supernatural horror film with the working title ‘Overlord’.

And while I may not have loved ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ in the same way I have for the prior entries in the series, I very much appreciate what the series is doing for film, not only continuing to revolutionise the way in which movies are marketed, but also by taking risks with up-and-coming filmmakers, such as Dan Trachtenberg and Julius Onah, and in an age where film purists are crying out for original science-fiction films within the myriad of Superheroes, Star Wars and such, allow these filmmakers to make new and exciting films, all under the infamous guise that is ‘Cloverfield’.

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